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Feb 19, 2018

Wilmington railyard promises rewards, but Long Beach neighbors still see a polluter

Online EDition

The fate of a planned $500 million railyard next to a low-income West Long Beach neighborhood is finally coming to a head, with lawyers on both sides of a lawsuit over the project appealing to the California Supreme Court.

For decades Warren Buffett’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. has set its sights on a massive railyard in West Long Beach where cargo boxes from the nearby ports could be hitched onto a rail line that would deliver billions of dollars in goods across the country and shore up the company’s competitive edge.

Known as the the Southern California International Gateway project, the plan includes environmental perks, good-paying jobs and less pollution from cargo trucks, BNSF contends.

But Long Beach, air regulators, environmentalists and neighbors balked, contending in lawsuits filed in 2013 the 185-acre yard would actually worsen air quality. They say the project required more investigation in its environmental reports needed for approval, which the city of Los Angeles granted in 2013.

Now Long Beach, along with several other parties that originally filed suit to stop the yard, are trying to take their case to the state Supreme Court, where justices haven’t been shy in delving into the state’s notoriously stringent and complicated environmental laws.

“It’s utterly ridiculous,” said Evelyn Knight, an 84-year old resident who lives in West Long Beach. “I want them to fight this. I will continue to fight this because I care about my life and the life of those in the community and my relatives.”

The massive yard is expected to attract 1.5 million container trucks a year, about 5,500 semi-trucks daily and eight trains a day. Most big rigs are powered by diesel, the fumes that have been linked to asthma, decreased lung function in children and cancer.

“This railyard will be a magnate for dirty trucks and will increase the number of trucks,” Knight said. “Already you can’t get up and down the freeway because of all these trucks.”

Legal wrangling

Prospects for the yard seemed dim after a Superior Court judge in 2016 ordered the city of Los Angeles to set aside its environmental analysis needed to move forward, along with the proposed 50-year lease. But, last month a California appellate overruled that decision and gave both sides a partial victory.

A panel of three judges found the environmental reporting required under the California Environmental Quality Act was mostly met by BNSF with the exception of one point: how air pollution concentrations were determined. The narrower ruling, if left untouched, could force BNSF to revise their analysis, but it also cleared some of the most difficult hurdles, freeing the railroad giant of costly requirements to offset pollution.

“It’s problematic because without adequate mitigation measures, the residents of Long Beach’s westside are going to be inundated with noise and traffic problems,” said Michael Mais, Long Beach deputy city attorney.

The railyard would operate 24 hours, seven days a week. At full operation, roughly two million trucks annually would travel between the port and the facility 4 miles away, bringing an onslaught of barreling big rigs near homes and several schools.

The Los Angeles port and the rail industry looked hopeful that the most recent judgement would get them closer to building on the industrial stretch in Wilmington, on the border of Long Beach. Both released a statement after the ruling saying they were “pleased” with the judgement.

The port “stands by” the report’s “extensive and thorough analyses, as properly informing the public and decision-makers of the project’s effects under the California Environmental Quality Act,” Phillip Sanfield, the port spokesman stated. BNSF said they were weighing options.

Neither would comment further.

But the news was a blow for Long Beach and environmentalists on what they saw as one of the biggest flaws in the port’s and BNSF’s claim: that the new facility would take big rigs off the road by diverting them away from the 710 Freeway.

Truckers take that route on their way to the company’s Hobart facility in Commerce, one the largest intermodal yards in the United States. The environmental impact report done for BNSF and approved by Los Angeles stated no new traffic would be created on the 710 because of the diversion. And that would it lower overall pollution.

“That is simply factually not so,” said David Pettit, an attorney with the Natural Resource Defense Council who represents neighbors and other environmental groups.

Pettit and others have argued a second railyard would actually add more capacity and more diesel-powered, polluting trucks on the freeway.

The appeal court shot down that argument. And it’s one of the points that they are asking the Supreme Court to reconsider, along with how traffic and noise is assessed. It’s important because the more pollution that the railyard causes, the more the company must do to offset it, such as the use of electric-powered train engines and non diesel electric trucks.

So far, the company hasn’t offered enough concessions for any of the parties.

“Our clients want this project killed,” Pettit said.

But for BNSF, this project would be a windfall, allowing them to expand their extensive rail network.

“This is viewed as a national test case,” said Anthony Hatch, a railroad industry analyst.

At issue, he said, is whether a private railroad company can successfully overcome local and state environmental rules to build infrastructure that has a strategic importance for nation’s supply chain.

About 35 percent of the nation’s good are imported from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Of that a third are shipped out by rail, and officials hope that number will rise in the coming years. Both ports vowed to increase rail movement because it’s more efficient and is better for the environment.

But Hatch said if BNSF, a  premiere carrier, gets shot down, it will send a message to others looking to build capital intensive projects in the region.

“If they can’t do this, how are they going to do something else?” he asked rhetorically.

Online EDition

The fate of a planned $500 million railyard next to a low-income West Long Beach neighborhood is finally coming to a head, with lawyers on both sides of a lawsuit over the project appealing to the California Supreme Court.

Jan 05, 2005

$1 Billion environment Bond will be proposed to California; Ports

Jan 05, 2010

$100 mil wasted by Seattle Port will not be recovered

A new report from the Washington State Auditor's office finds that performance audits conducted of state agencies and local governments saves taxpayers $3.6 billion since voters approved the audits in 2005. However, the report also confirms that some of the waste found in the audits, such as nearly $100 million lost by the Port of Seattle between 2004 and 2007, will never be recovered.

A new report from the Washington State Auditor's office finds that performance audits conducted of state agencies and local governments saves taxpayers $3.6 billion since voters approved the audits in 2005. However, the report also confirms that some of the waste found in the audits, such as nearly $100 million lost by the Port of Seattle between 2004 and 2007, will never be recovered.

Aug 28, 2009

$11.3 Million for transit improvements in California

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announces $11.3 million in ARRA funds for transit improvements in California. The following grants are being awarded:
City of Santa Maria Area Transit: $2.5 million for construction of the Santa Maria Intermodal Transit Center, three buses, and five vans. L.A.County Metropolitan Transportation Authority: $6.8 million for the Metro Red Line Subway Escalator Canopy Project. Tahoe City in CA: $2 mil for the construction of the Tahoe City Transit Center.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announces $11.3 million in ARRA funds for transit improvements in California. The following grants are being awarded:
City of Santa Maria Area Transit: $2.5 million for construction of the Santa Maria Intermodal Transit Center, three buses, and five vans. L.A.County Metropolitan Transportation Authority: $6.8 million for the Metro Red Line Subway Escalator Canopy Project. Tahoe City in CA: $2 mil for the construction of the Tahoe City Transit Center.

Jun 11, 2014

$12.3 Billion Water Projects Bill Signed by President Obama Will

Capping a rare instance of congressional compromise, President Barack Obama signed a $12.3 billion water projects bill this week, financing improvements that would benefit the nation’s seaports, including the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

Capping a rare instance of congressional compromise, President Barack Obama signed a $12.3 billion water projects bill this week, financing improvements that would benefit the nation’s seaports, including the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

Mar 22, 2007

$295 million will be added to port security for supplemental

Jul 28, 2015

$3.2 million in counterfeit Hermes belts confiscated at port

Online Edition

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach seized some $3.2 million worth of counterfeit Hermes belts.

The 3,960 phony belts from China were taken into Customs’ possession June 18, according to officials. The counterfeit goods were falsely labeled as “plastic besoms.” A besom is a broom, a consumer good that is usually distinct from a luxury designer belt with an estimated retail value of about $800.

Customs officials report that counterfeiters have become increasingly skilled at producing fake merchandise. The seized belts had Hermes’ trademark stamped on their boxes and on the back of each belt. The manufacturer’s trademark was also engraved on the back of each belt buckle.

Counterfeit apparel accounted for 28 percent of the fake merchandise that Customs officers seized in 2014. The phony goods had an estimated retail value of $113 million, according to customs officials.

The top five places of origin for counterfeit goods that was seized upon arrival into the United States in 2014 were China, Hong Kong, Canada, India and the United Arab Emirates.

Online Edition

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach seized some $3.2 million worth of counterfeit Hermes belts.

The 3,960 phony belts from China were taken into Customs’ possession June 18, according to officials. The counterfeit goods were falsely labeled as “plastic besoms.” A besom is a broom, a consumer good that is usually distinct from a luxury designer belt with an estimated retail value of about $800.

Aug 28, 2009

$31. 8 Million in clean cities grants for California

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announces the selection of 25 cost-share projects under the Clean Cities program that will be funded with nearly $300 million from ARRA. Four California projects are expected to receive $31.8 million of this funding. Under the Recovery Act, the Clean Cities program will fund a range of energy efficient and advanced vehicle technologies, such as hybrids, electric vehicles, plug-in electric hybrids, hydraulic hybrids and compressed natural gas vehicles, helping reduce petroleum consumption across the U.S.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announces the selection of 25 cost-share projects under the Clean Cities program that will be funded with nearly $300 million from ARRA. Four California projects are expected to receive $31.8 million of this funding. Under the Recovery Act, the Clean Cities program will fund a range of energy efficient and advanced vehicle technologies, such as hybrids, electric vehicles, plug-in electric hybrids, hydraulic hybrids and compressed natural gas vehicles, helping reduce petroleum consumption across the U.S.

Article link
Aug 20, 2018

$35 million investment lets Uber-like Cargomatic hire more in Long Beach

Online Edition

Cargomatic, a Long Beach technology company that just two years ago had been struggling to raise funds and had reportedly laid off more than a third of its staff, is now looking to “significantly” beef up its Southern California staffing after recently receiving a $35 million cash injection from a group of investors, the company’s CEO said Monday.

The company, located not far from the Port of Long Beach, uses technology to pair up people and companies with cargo to ship with cargo carriers who have space available, earning it the nickname the “Uber for trucking” not long after it debuted in 2013.

The way it works is that through its mobile application, Cargomatic connects shippers, receivers and carriers and eliminates the phone calls, emails and faxes traditionally needed to book a transaction. The company’s technology enables users to, among other things, access or list unused trucking space, plus view cargo pick up times and delivery rates.

“We’re more than just an app, we’re an entire end-to-end solution for local pick up and delivery,” Chairman/CEO Richard Gerstein said. “What the app does better than anything I’ve ever seen is it tracks the trucks in real time.”

The company was originally based in Venice Beach, but a series of missteps including financial mismanagement, led to the company laying off more than a third of its staff in April 2016, as well as its CEO stepping down the following month. The company’s comeback began after it moved to Long Beach in late 2016 and when Gerstein came aboard to head the company in early 2017.

The $35 million new funding comes primarily from global private equity firm Warburg Pincus and also includes venture capital firm Canaan, short line railroad Genesee & Wyoming, venture firm Xplorer Capital, and investor Muse Family Enterprises.

“We see meaningful opportunity to continue delivering value for customers and expanding the platform to new cities,” Warburg Pincus Vice President Parag Gupta said. “We look forward to partnering with (Cargomatic) in this new phase of the business.”

Gerstein said Monday, Aug. 20, that this round of funding will go toward expansion and adding employees.“We’re going to be hiring significant numbers of engineers, software engineers, customer service people,” Gerstein said. “Many of the key hires will be in Southern California, out of our Long Beach office, and we are going to be expanding our capacity significantly in and around Southern California. You will see significant growth in Cargomatic emanating from Long Beach over the next year.”

Cargomatic has 50 workers in Southern California, about 30 of whom work out of the company’s downtown Long Beach office on Ocean Boulevard. The company is looking to beef up that number “immediately,” Gerstein said.

“I don’t have a number to give you, but we are significantly going to expand our head count in Long Beach, he said.”

“We’re very committed to Long Beach,” he continued. “The LA-Long Beach-Southern California market is by far our largest market and we’re grateful for the blessings that we’ve gotten out of that market, and we’re going to keep pursuing growth there. It’s a really amazing market for us.”

It automatically manages extra charges like wait times, extra services that area required to fulfill a shipment. Traditionally the charges are calculated manually.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into automating the process,” Gerstein said. “And that’s a very big deal, especially in the port environment where there is a lot of waiting and it’s really designed to give more transparency to the entire process.”

Although Cargomatic benefits from being in relatively close to the Long Beach and Los Angeles seaports and the hustle and bustle of trucks constantly taking goods to and from the harbor area, Gerstein said there’s more to his company’s strategic location.

“It’s a good thing to be near the ports, but I think for us it’s not just that; we just like the feeling better,” he said. “It’s more of a transportation town: people in Long Beach speak our language. I’m from Chicago originally and I just feel like I’m back in the Midwest when I’m in Long Beach. I like that feeling.”

Online Edition

Cargomatic, a Long Beach technology company that just two years ago had been struggling to raise funds and had reportedly laid off more than a third of its staff, is now looking to “significantly” beef up its Southern California staffing after recently receiving a $35 million cash injection from a group of investors, the company’s CEO said Monday.

Aug 09, 2008

$4 Billion Port Upgrades Sought

The Long Beach Port authorities tell Congressional committee areas infrastructure connecting local seaports to rest of America needs at least $4 billion in near-term upgrades to remain competitive in coming years.

The Long Beach Port authorities tell Congressional committee areas infrastructure connecting local seaports to rest of America needs at least $4 billion in near-term upgrades to remain competitive in coming years.